Jean-Baptiste Estienne

General Estienne. Photo SHAT


Jean-Baptiste ESTIENNE (1860-1936), native of Condé-en-Barrois is the father of the tanks. He will be first in the mathematics competition of the colleges of the entire country in 1880 and the same year he will be accepted to the Polytechnique. Thus he enters in the artillery. Curious individual, he is interested in aeronautics, which is a sector of full expansion. He recommends the use of balloons as well as plans to carry out adjustments in the precision of the shootings. Soon he is going to be in charge of the aeronautic service where he will have captain Ferber under his orders, working as inspector. The pilots who leave his service are all patented and will officially participate to the manoeuvres of 1910, conferring to the aviation a real existence in the army. But in the first place he is supported in particular because of his qualities as Officer of the artillery. Indeed, from August 1914 he recommends the establishment of an assault artillery, by the creation of mobile machines, equipped of cuirass and then of chenille, because of their solidity and their aptitude to be driven in very varied soils. In case the British preceded him in the realization of the project, by building tanks, he will end up convincing the General staff to use this mobile artillery to break the front.

Appointed general inspector of the assault artillery, he was also the promoter of the diversification of armoured communication regiments . His idea concerning the assault tanks and its use, inspired the Germans and in particular Heinz Guderian, who was interested on the subject of Estienne's general war strategy of movement. The weapon of the tanks became thus an independent unit it was not anymore only an infantry support.